Czech Has Four New Gripen Pilots to Call their Own

Four Czech pilots from Čáslav Air Base, who flew to Sweden in mid-February this year, have now completed their retraining on the Gripen fighters, reports The three-month long training was held at Såtenäs Air Base, near Lidköping. 

During the training period, which consisted of different phases, the pilots were given theoretical training on the technicalities of Gripen followed by intense training on the simulators and on the fighter itself. The pilots first underwent training on centrifuges followed by drill activities for emergency evacuation from the aircraft if it lands on the water. Simulated conditions like rain, waves, temperatures etc., were created for a more realistic training. 

"A typical day started with a morning briefing about what exercises we're going to do and when," says one of the new Gripen pilots. "Great emphasis was placed on the proper preparation for the flight and its subsequent evaluation," he adds.

One of the most important aspect of the training was the instrument flying wherein the pilots must learn to navigate the aircraft solely with the help of flight instruments rather than by visual references. This is to avoid any obstacles, especially while flying under degraded weather conditions. The trainings often took place above Vänern Lake, which is the largest lake in the European Union, and over the North Sea coast between Norway and Denmark where the pilots trained to fly at supersonic speeds. 

During the retraining, the Czech pilots flew about 30 flight hours on simulators and 15 flight hours on Gripen D before moving to Gripen C. 

"All four pilots already have experience with the L-159 ALCA aircraft, so their transition to a supersonic aircraft was much easier. They have flown hundreds of flight hours, and some of them also have experience of flying in foreign exercises," says Colonel Petr Tománek, Commander of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base, Čáslav.

The Czech pilots, like all aspiring military pilots, have had a long and difficult journey characterised by years of intense courses and trainings. The four pilots will now return to the Czech Republic where they will have another 2-3 weeks of theoretical training to adapt them back to their home environment. This will then be followed by more flight training to operate Gripen. 

"Becoming a fighter pilot is a dream that I have had since childhood. To me, flying is more than just a job, it's a mission and a lifestyle," says one of the four pilots. "When I see a Gripen flying in the sky, I can't believe I can fly this machine too," he adds. 

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